How to Prevent Glasses Headaches
by Brooke Cheney

Eyeglasses are great for both improving how you see and how you’re seen – along with making your eyesight sharper, they are also a great stylish accessory. Glasses are full of benefits. But sometimes eyeglasses can lead to discomfort, particularly when they cause a dreaded glasses headache.

Have you ever felt one? Maybe after a new prescription? In truth, headaches from glasses can occur for a number of reasons. But fundamentally, it comes down to eyestrain. Eyestrain can even be a trigger for migraines, and eyestrain often leads to a headache. Asthenopia, the medical term for eyestrain, occurs when your eye muscles are over tired – maybe from watching the road all day while driving long distances, or from typing a paper all night on your computer. In these situations, your eyes tired from persistent concentration in the same general place. This occurs because the ciliary muscle, smooth muscle within the middle of eyeball, becomes stressed. The ciliary muscle is in charge of accommodation for viewing objects at different distances. Therefore, when you spend a long time looking at a computer, for example, your ciliary muscle tightens up from a lack of variation in depth. It may sound serious, but don’t let these facts or the word “asthenopia” scare you! Eyestrain, and the resulting glasses headache, is extremely common, and usually is easily self treatable.

So the real question is: how can we reduce how often we receive headaches from glasses? In other words: How are they prevented? There are many options, based on what you think is causing the glasses headache. If you get headaches from glasses mostly when you are on the computer, try getting lenses that have a high-grade anti-reflective coating. Often, glare from a screen can be what causes the strain. You could also try to get a pair of bifocals with a weaker prescription to use while you are on the computer. And perhaps the easiest option: When on the computer, look up from your screen once every fifteen and focus your eyes on an object in the distance. This will help to keep your ciliary muscle from cramping. Try to alternate between looking into the distance while standing up and sitting down, as this will help to further vary the way your eye muscles are working and focusing. Also, if you feel your eyes starting to get dry, try to blink ten times in a row once every twenty minutes. In doing so, you will rewet your eyes and prevent them from drying.

Maybe your eyes are already feeling strained, and now you can feel the muscles in your forehead and your temples tense up. You have caught a glasses headache! Don’t stress – your eyes will relax naturally. But there are some ways you can help them out. The best idea is to give your eyes a break from focusing altogether. The best way to do that is simple: turn off the lights and let your eyes be open in the dark. In the dark, your eyes do not have to focus on anything in particular and they can rest. Your glasses headache will relieve itself as your eyes have time to relax. You can also relax your eyes by applying a cool compress on them. Have you ever wondered why people wear cucumber slices over their eyes at the spa? Well, that’s mainly to reduce puffiness beneath the eyes, but it also provides soothing coolness for your eyes through your eyelids. But be sure not to use a compress that is too cold! Something as cold as ice can hurt the delicate skin around your eyes.

While activities like staring at a computer screen can cause eyestrain even for people who don’t wear eyeglasses, prescription glasses can cause eyestrain and lead to a glasses headache. This can occur when someone gets new glasses, or when eyeglasses intended for other purposes, like reading glasses, are worn for other activities, even using the computer. Though glasses can relieve eyestrain if eyesight is weak, they can also cause eye muscles to strain. “Any time you wear glasses or contacts, your prescription changes the demand put on your eye muscles,” explains optometrist Eric T. Brooker, O.D. So headaches from glasses occur when the muscles in your eyes are trying to resist a change in vision that can come from just your glasses, or a new prescription.

It is extremely common to get glasses headaches from a change in prescription. If you receive a new prescription and find that the new pair of glasses is giving you a glasses headache, your eye muscles are probably being stressed because the new prescription requires a different reaction. Your eyes are so used to reacting to your last prescription that it attempts to focus in the same way they previously did. But with a new prescription, your eyes’ old practices no longer work. Your eyes will begin to strain during the adjustment period to a new prescription, and its very common to get headaches from glasses. So if your new glasses are causing your eyes to strain and your head to hurt, listen to your body! Even if the change in prescription is slight, it can have a large effect on how your eye muscles interact with them. Here are some tips on how to be comfortable during the period when your eyes are adjusting and glasses headaches are most common.

Once your eyes are accustomed to the new prescription, they will not have to strain against them – and then the glass headaches will stop! So the best way to reduce glasses headaches is to wear your new prescription as much as possible in order to shorten the time when your eye muscles are adjusting. This means that you should put on your new glasses as soon as you wake up. If you allow your eyes to start the day by looking through the new prescription, they will be less likely to focus the way they used to and there will be less cause for a glasses headache. If you find that your getting headaches from glasses, you can take them off for short periods in order to allow your eyes to rest. But allowing your eyes to focus in their old way prolongs the adjustment period, so it is best to wear them as much as possible. A good way to allow your eyes to adjust without suffering through the glasses headache that accompanies the transition is to take an over the counter pain reliever. Anything that works to relieve muscle pain, like Advil, will relieve your glasses headache.

The last thing anyone wants to think about when leaving the eye doctor with a new pair of glasses is that the glasses will be a pain – metaphorically or literally! But headaches from glasses are extremely common, and luckily, they can be both prevented and treated fairly easily. All it takes is a little bit of adjustment time for your eyes to get used to your new glasses and then the glasses headaches will ease up. Until then, hang in there! You will be styling in comfort in no time.